Virtual Private Network: How to Use This Privacy Tool?

Not to sound dramatic, but the internet is a dangerous place. It started as a way for people to share information and communicate but wasn’t created with anonymity and privacy in mind. Thanks to the many threats to personal safety and liberty that exist today, it’s getting worse. Data breaches might always be front and center in the news, but they aren’t the only threat.

Crooked individuals, scammers, and crime syndicates target individuals and businesses – both large and small – every day. Hardware manufacturers and software developers struggle to keep up with every new security vulnerability. Meanwhile, ISPs and other companies track their users’ every online move, selling data to the highest bidders.

These examples only scratch the surface of how much privacy has become jeopardized in recent years. That’s why anyone who’s connecting to the internet via their computer or smartphone should use a virtual private network (VPN). This privacy tool is not just necessary but also easy to install and use.

  • How Does a VPN Work?
  • What Can’t a VPN Do?
  • How to Install and Use a VPN?

How Does a VPN Work?

Wherever you connect to the internet, your internet service provider can see your connection. Their DNS servers see and log every site you want to visit. Along the way, the websites you visit can track everything you do on-site. With the help of cookies and tracking your IP address, they can sometimes follow you off-site as well.

Tracking all this information serves many purposes. Improving the user experience is a relatively harmless one. But more sinister reasons include selling user data and exploiting it for personal gain.

A VPN overcomes those problems by redirecting your traffic through a server owned by a VPN service. It sends the connection through an encrypted tunnel. The encryption ensures that no one can read the traffic data since it’s now scrambled. Routing the connection through a different server first also hides your IP address, replacing it with another. This combined effort means that the connection is now private, making it hard for snoopers to get any info on what you do online.

What Can’t a VPN Do?

A VPN can add a layer of privacy to your internet connection, but it doesn’t hide everything. A VPN service encrypts your connection until you reach your target website. If you log in and share information with the site, the website still knows who you are.

So a VPN protects people from outside spying and often threats like hackers. But it can’t protect information people volunteer themselves. It includes things like filling out forms or petitions, sharing anything on social media, and commenting on forums. It also can’t save people from data breaches, scammers, or malware they download themselves.

It means anyone who uses a VPN can rest assured that they now have more privacy, but they aren’t safe from every risk out there.

How to Install and Use a VPN?

Installing and using a VPN is simple, and it should only take a few minutes to get everything set up. The most challenging part comes before installing the software – finding the best VPN service.

Step 1: Pick a VPN service with a good reputation and an acceptable pricing tier.

  • There are many great VPNs with free trials for those who want to shop around first.
  • Also, take a look at the features a VPN service offers. Excellent service would allow a person to connect to the VPN from at least five different devices at a time.
  • Moreover, take privacy into account, since that’s the point here after all. Make sure the VPN has a no-logs policy, meaning they don’t collect user information or traffic data.

Step 2: After selecting a VPN service, create an account, and download the VPN app for devices that you plan to use it on.

  • Most VPNs have apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. Also, some have browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
  • You can also install a VPN manually without an app or extension, though that process is a little more complicated.

Step 3: Then make sure to turn the VPN on before you connect to the internet.

  • If the connection feels a little slow, then switch to a VPN server located closer to home.
  • Most VPNs also have advanced settings. Make sure to read through the documentation or do some research online before tinkering with those.

The Bottom Line

VPNs provide a fantastic way of gaining more privacy online fast. While they don’t make someone wholly anonymous and don’t protect against everything, it’s still vital to use one. Nowadays, data has become a hot commodity; it’s up to you to wrest back some privacy for yourself.